Leveson inquiry: Jeremy Hunt texted James Murdoch defying legal advice

Written on:May 31, 2023
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Jeremy Hunt texted Murdoch over BSkyB bid (Image courtesy of HowardLake)

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt sent a message to James Murdoch favouring News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB, defying legal advice not to have any external discussions about the deal.

Evidence revealed at the Leveson inquiry shows on December 21, Hunt sent a text message to Murdoch, the boss of News Corporation, saying “Great and congrats on Brussels, just Ofcom to go!”.

This refers to the bid’s successful clearance from the European Union, and the next hurdle of getting approval from the media regulator.

Later that day, it emerged that Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who was judging the bid, told undercover reporters that he had been declaring “war on Murdoch”.

At 4pm, Hunt received a call from Murdoch, who expressed his anger that the Business Secretary was showing “acute bias” against the deal.

Within 10 minutes, Hunt let both the Prime Minister’s office and the Chancellor know that News Corporation was unhappy with the situation.

He emailed Andy Coulson, the then director of communications at Number 10, to say: “Could we chat about this am seriously worried Vince will do real damage to coalition with his comments…”

He also texted George Osborne, the Chancellor, to say there was a danger the Coalitions was “screwing up” the bid.

By 5pm, the Prime Minister had decided that responsibility for the bid would be transferred to Hunt.

Osborne texted the Culture Secretary back to say, “I hope you like the solution!” The “solution” referred to the transfer of responsibility for the bid from Cable to Hunt.

The inquiry heard that Hunt had spoken out publicly in favour of the deal and given a “sympathetic hearing” to Murdoch without his officials present on a phone call in November - notwithstanding legal advice not to have “any external discussions” about the bid.

It also emerged during the inquiry that Jeremy Hunt only sent emails from a private Gmail account, rather than a government one.

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One Comment add one

  1. Alex J Kopp says:

    So the inside story is out. The inside story to this painfully long-drawn inquiry which may lead us into believing that when it comes to politics, it is impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff. I would also like to point out that Rebekah Brooks should now be spared from speculations at least, if not from the charges related to her texting misadventures with No. 10.

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